Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
robert32asp
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Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby robert32asp » 20 Apr 2017, 10:42pm

I am a 68 year old male USA tourist. In 2014 & 2015 I did a 2 day 205 mile bike ride from Seattle WA to Portland Oregon, plus a number of 40 to 60 mile training rides. In May 2016, I did the Camino de Stantiago starting in Pamplona Spain. I took about 18 days, but planned for 24 days, with lots of days for resting, weather, and tourism.

This summer I would like to do a long ride in England.

My thought (and I was hoping that some might provide some suggestions) was to Fly into Heathrow, take the bus to Bristol and then spend 3 nights getting over jet-lag, playing tourist, and getting my bike fitted out. I haven't figured out my stages yet, but an working on that next.

From Bristol take the Bristol Bath rail path to Devizes,

Then route 4/45/?? to Marlbourgh and the Avebury stone Circle.

Then on some back roads to Oxford. Take bike route 51 from Oxford to Sandy. Back roads from Sandy to Cambridge.

From Cambridge on Bike route 11 north to Downham Market, Kings Lynn and route 1 to Hunstanton.

Then Route 1 to Norwich, Ispswich, Clemsford, Route 13 to Standford le Hope, then to Tilsbury ferry, then route 1 to Canterbury.

Again, I am planning on giving myself about 21 days to do this trip. In half marathon training I have done, I like to always have at least one rest day and one very light exercise day a week. For my Camino I figured about 1/3 of the days should either be rest, light work out, bad weather days, or tourism days. I would like to do about the same for this trip.

I would also like to visit major Cathedrals along the way or religious sites.

Any thoughts on the route, would be appreciated.

Finally, I will be bringing with my on the airplane, my MTB shoes, clipless pedals, and bike seat, bell, helmet, and bike clothes, including rainwear.

any suggestions on a bike hire? or advice on buying and disposing of a bike in the UK? One suggestion has been to go to either a Decatholon Sports store (and have them ship to Bristol) Bike UK (in Bristol) or Mud Dock (Bristol) or Evans Cycle (Bristol) store and buy a medium to low-end (400 to 650 Pound) MTB hardtail or hybrid. And either sell or give to charity the bike either in Canterbury or London.

On my Camino I rented a bike and like that, but haven't found many bike hire services for the UK.

Finally, should I join a Hostel Association or would AirBnB, local tourist information offices, and BnB's be adequate with an occasional modest hotel in Julyl? Do you need to book ahead? Can you book ahead the night before if you have to (so I can have weather flexibility)?

Thanks

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Heltor Chasca
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Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby Heltor Chasca » 21 Apr 2017, 7:23am

Exciting!

I am at the Bristol and Bath end of your adventure as are a few on here. For bikes try contacting Mud Dock Café and Roll for the Soul who have got the contacts you need.

Your route to Devizes is good to go. Nothing to suggest further, but do get in touch if you need a hand with any logistics. I am a Warmshowers host extraordinaire too if you run out of juice.

What size bike out of interest?

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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby ANTONISH » 21 Apr 2017, 8:59am

That looks a nice route.
Tilbury ferry has a fairly frequent service but doesn't run on Sundays and public holidays.
I don't know Bristol but I would have thought that Decathlon should have a store somewhere convenient.

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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby mjr » 21 Apr 2017, 9:40am

Route thoughts:

I think it's worth detouring from route 51 in Milton Keynes to see the city centre and concrete cows at Bancroft. To do that, when on the section of NCR 51 also signposted as local route H8, you'll need to basically turn left onto local route V6 probably signposted CENTRAL or WOLVERTON. After the cows, rather than resume the route northeast immediately (which would take you along the fine Newport Nobby route, signposted NEWPORT PAGNELL), you may prefer to return to the central train station plaza and turn left uphill, through the city centre (sidewalks are generally cyclable except where signed) and Campbell Park to the Buddhist pagoda at Willen Lake.

Route 11 north of Cambridge is incomplete. Three options: turn right before Clayhithe onto Harcamlow Way, 2 miles of gravel and dirt track then tarmac and B road from Alicky Farm to Lode; leave Cambridge on Route 51 eastbound and used one of the signposted roads to Route 11; or leave Cambridge via Histon (directly or Route 51 westbound), B road to Wilburton, back roads to Witchford, cycle track to Ely to rejoin 11 at the cathedral. The first two options also include gravel and sand track across Wicken Fen and north of Barway. Which is best depends how you feel about sand, or how you feel about really rubbish drivers on the B road to Wilburton.

Sand and gravel also features on Route 1 from near Whitwell to the western boundary of Norwich. The near parallel back roads are a good alternative IMO, but the Norwich city section is worth riding, rivaling the Bristol and Bath Railway Path as a painless entry into a city.

There are often faster detours, but most of the kinks and wiggles on the sections of 11 and 1 you mention do have some reason,such as visiting Welney wetlands centre or Walsingham for the shrine and pie barn. That's not true of all NCRs IMO.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby Vorpal » 21 Apr 2017, 9:58am

Colchester is a nice place for tourists. It was the Roman capital in Great Britain, the Norman castle is built on the foundations of a Roman temple. The medieval centre is nice, too.

My mother-in-law loves visiting churches, so I have been to many in the East of England.

My favourites churches aren't Cathedrals at all, but are interesting for cultural or historic reasons. Hadleigh, Suffolk (near Ipswich) and Coggeshall (a little north of the line between Colchester and Chelmsford) have very nice historic churches that were designed by the same medieval architect. The region was very wealthy during the medieval period because of the wool trade. And the churches were built with that wealth. http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/ ... eshall.htm and http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/hadleigh.htm
St. Mary's in Colchester was used druing the English Civil War and is said to be the source of the nursery rhyme 'Humpty Dumpty' http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/ ... -walls.htm

There's also Greensted church which is near Chelmsford, though a bit off your route. It's said to be the oldest wooden church in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensted_Church

At Great St. Mary's in Cambridge, visitors can go up the bell tower during some times of the day. There's a good view of the city from there.

Here's a map of cathedrals. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagaz ... athedrals/

There are a couple of good books for visiting churches in England, as well...
Church Explorer's handbook https://www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Explore ... 185311622X
I never knew that about England's country churches https://www.amazon.co.uk/Never-About-En ... 3SH52KFF8P

I also know many of the routes in Essex and Suffolk, and am happy to answer any questions.

I do have to warn you that compared to something like the rail trails in the USA, Sustrans routes are not as convenient. They are seldom as direct, and they often have anti-motorcycle barriers. The best sections are on quiet country lanes and old rail routes.

You can try someplace like http://www.stationbicycles.co.uk/ which buy and sell used bikes

I haven't used these folks but I know they do rental bikes http://www.londonbicycle.com/hire/touring

p.s. in British, the word for renting bikes is 'hire' so you might have more luck if you google 'hire bikes' or 'hire touring bike' than 'rental bikes'
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby urbanhiker » 21 Apr 2017, 10:00am

Hi,

Just a couple of my random thoughts...

Are you planning on flying in with a bike? I'm pretty sure (although more than happy to be proved wrong) that travelling on a bus/coach with a bike is a non-starter. Although far from ideal, trains are the way to go. Not sure about from Heathrow to London Paddington, but London Paddington to Bristol by train would be your best bet. Trains and bike are good when they work, but not always the best of bedfellows, so worth asking on here for tips etc.

Also, if you're coming as far west as Bristol, I'd be tempted to push on a little further and start the cycle journey in Wales. The cycle from Cardiff (Welsh capital) to Bristol is lovely, quite different from the rest of your planned journey, bit hilly, great views, (although mostly on roads) very little traffic, and you get to go over the Severn bridge. Trains from London Paddington go direct to Cardiff (via Bristol), but Bristol or Cardiff would make a good jet lag recovery city.

Bristol to Devises (not sure about further on), on NCN 4 is predominantly flat, and fairly quick going. But beware on sunny weekends, bank holidays, can become very busy, at which point they become very slow going due to pedestrian/bike traffic. Midweek and you'll have them all to yourselves :-)

Enjoy!

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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby thirdcrank » 21 Apr 2017, 10:12am

robert32asp wrote: ... Finally, should I join a Hostel Association or would AirBnB, local tourist information offices, and BnB's be adequate with an occasional modest hotel in Julyl? Do you need to book ahead? Can you book ahead the night before if you have to (so I can have weather flexibility)?


As nobody seems to have commented on this, I'll bump it for comment.

AFAIK, The summer school holidays begin around the third week in July when accommodation may be harder to find at short notice.

Unfortunately, the Youth Hostels Association is no longer as useful to the individual cycle tourist as was once the case: fewer suitably placed hostels and child protection policies which have been reported on here to have led to bookings being cancelled and members being considerably restricted in their use of facilities.

PS Enjoy your trip. :D You are not planning to come to my area so I'll not comment on your proposed route.

PPS if you do decide on youth hostels, shop around for your membership. AFAIK, the YHA is not the cheapest.

One final post script I forgot :oops: You have gone to some lengths to explain your fitness / capabilities. Don't worry: you will be OK. While nowhere is flat on a bike, you have chosen areas away from the hilliest bits of the country and in any case, you sound pretty fit to me. :D

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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby mercalia » 21 Apr 2017, 10:42am

if you want to visit cathedrals then maybe visit the Cathedral of the Fens at Ely, Ely Cathedral

http://www.elycathedral.org/visit

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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby Vorpal » 21 Apr 2017, 11:45am

mercalia wrote:if you want to visit cathedrals then maybe visit the Cathedral of the Fens at Ely, Ely Cathedral

http://www.elycathedral.org/visit

Ely cathedral is much more interesting than Chelmsford cathedral. And it's a nice area to ride around, as well.
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby mjr » 21 Apr 2017, 12:11pm

thirdcrank wrote:
robert32asp wrote: ... Finally, should I join a Hostel Association or would AirBnB, local tourist information offices, and BnB's be adequate with an occasional modest hotel in Julyl? Do you need to book ahead? Can you book ahead the night before if you have to (so I can have weather flexibility)?


As nobody seems to have commented on this, I'll bump it for comment.

Heltor Chasca mentioned warmshowers, which I think is a good idea but I've never used it. I can't really comment on AirBnB or UK Tourist Information because I've never used them, hostelling because it's a long time since I did it or hotel/b+b booking because I don't do it in summer in my own area. Generally I book ahead and try for at least a couple of nights ahead.

One possible caution is that the big bike-friendly chains (Travelodge and Premier Inn) increase in price airline-style as you get closer to the date, while smaller bike-friendly places (like Fairlight Lodge in King's Lynn) don't have many rooms so can be sold out early sometimes.

Vorpal wrote:I do have to warn you that compared to something like the rail trails in the USA, Sustrans routes are not as convenient. They are seldom as direct, and they often have anti-motorcycle barriers. The best sections are on quiet country lanes and old rail routes.

"Sustrans routes" = National/Regional Cycle Routes, the white-on-red and white-on-blue numbered routes that the opening post seems to know about. The other major route systems are the various local route systems (also mostly white-on-blue, but named or letter+number) and the National Byway (white on brown, one winding route with many loops and few named destination signs).

They're anti-cycle barriers (because you can't block motorcycles without blocking cycles) and will often cause problems for wider-handlebarred MTBs. If you took a big pipe cutter, hacksaw and wood saw along, you'd be unlikely to be caught and very popular with local cyclists ;) but maybe it's more practical to stand the bike on its back wheel or lift it to get the handlebars over the infernal things, as long as you're able-bodied.

I think the best sections of NCR also include riverbanks, park routes and former/cut-off main roads.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby Vorpal » 21 Apr 2017, 12:16pm

mjr wrote:I think the best sections of NCR also include riverbanks, park routes and former/cut-off main roads.

Yes, that's true :D And there aer some nice sections through parks and along rivers in and around Chelmsford.
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby Tizme » 21 Apr 2017, 2:09pm

I think the nearest Decathlon to Bristol is at Southampton, but there is a huge store in Surrey Quays, London( https://www.decathlon.co.uk/en/store?store_id=PS_UK_240) which has a massive number of bikes and a large enough area to try them out, worth checking out before you get to Bristol (or have a look at the website first, see if they have something you would like and then decide).
Two places worth considering, depending on how much you are willing to detour would be Wells (and the Cathedral, which is beautiful) and Woodhenge (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visi ... woodhenge/) which is considered by many to be better than Stonehenge (and less well known = less busy).

When are you doing the trip? I retire at the end of June and would be happy to keep you company as you pass my way (Mendips), as I am sure others would. However I would completely understand if you would prefer the solitude :)

robert32asp
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby robert32asp » 21 Apr 2017, 7:06pm

Heltor Chasca wrote:Exciting!

I am at the Bristol and Bath end of your adventure as are a few on here. For bikes try contacting Mud Dock Café and Roll for the Soul who have got the contacts you need.

Your route to Devizes is good to go. Nothing to suggest further, but do get in touch if you need a hand with any logistics. I am a Warmshowers host extraordinaire too if you run out of juice.

What size bike out of interest?


Thanks. I will contact Mud Dock Cafe and they looked pretty interesting on their website. I also looked at the Roll for the Soul cycle cafe website. I think that I will visit both as I de-stress from Jet lag and get my head into my biking trip!

As to bike size, I am 6foot and usually ride either a L or a XL men's frame bike.

Thanks again!

robert32asp
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby robert32asp » 21 Apr 2017, 7:09pm

mjr wrote:Route thoughts:

I think it's worth detouring from route 51 in Milton Keynes to see the city centre and concrete cows at Bancroft. To do that, when on the section of NCR 51 also signposted as local route H8, you'll need to basically turn left onto local route V6 probably signposted CENTRAL or WOLVERTON. After the cows, rather than resume the route northeast immediately (which would take you along the fine Newport Nobby route, signposted NEWPORT PAGNELL), you may prefer to return to the central train station plaza and turn left uphill, through the city centre (sidewalks are generally cyclable except where signed) and Campbell Park to the Buddhist pagoda at Willen Lake.

Route 11 north of Cambridge is incomplete. Three options: turn right before Clayhithe onto Harcamlow Way, 2 miles of gravel and dirt track then tarmac and B road from Alicky Farm to Lode; leave Cambridge on Route 51 eastbound and used one of the signposted roads to Route 11; or leave Cambridge via Histon (directly or Route 51 westbound), B road to Wilburton, back roads to Witchford, cycle track to Ely to rejoin 11 at the cathedral. The first two options also include gravel and sand track across Wicken Fen and north of Barway. Which is best depends how you feel about sand, or how you feel about really rubbish drivers on the B road to Wilburton.

Sand and gravel also features on Route 1 from near Whitwell to the western boundary of Norwich. The near parallel back roads are a good alternative IMO, but the Norwich city section is worth riding, rivaling the Bristol and Bath Railway Path as a painless entry into a city.

There are often faster detours, but most of the kinks and wiggles on the sections of 11 and 1 you mention do have some reason,such as visiting Welney wetlands centre or Walsingham for the shrine and pie barn. That's not true of all NCRs IMO.


Thanks for the suggested route modifications and for the track/route surface information. Also some of the sites to catch. This really helps with my planning!

robert32asp
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Re: Bristol,Bath,Oxford,Hunstanton,Norwich,Ispwich,Tilbury,Caterbury July 2017

Postby robert32asp » 21 Apr 2017, 7:36pm

Wow! You folks are fantastic!

I want to thank all of you for your suggestions. The church suggestions are going to require bit of time sitting down with Google Maps to figure out exactly where they are. Lodging and bike rental information was also fabulous and much appreciated. If I rent a bike I will have it delivered to a place to stay in Bristol.

While it could be fun to go to Wales, I think I will pass this time. I did choose a route that wasn't too hilly. The Camino was very very hilly in places, most places.

I will be arriving at Heathrow July 3rd and leaving by bike from Bristol either the 5th or 6th. I really enjoyed doing the Camino by myself, although you are never by yourself with that many folks headed in the same direction all year long.

I have so much now to think about!

Thanks again!


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